The Sacred in Fantastic Fandom

Essays on the Intersection of Religion and Pop Culture

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About the Book

To the casual observer, similarities between fan communities and religious believers are difficult to find. Religion is traditional, institutional, and serious; whereas fandom is contemporary, individualistic, and fun. Can the robes of nuns and priests be compared to cosplay outfits of Jedi Knights and anime characters? Can travelling to fan conventions be understood as pilgrimages to the shrines of saints?
These new essays investigate fan activities connected to books, film, and online games, such as Harry Potter-themed weddings, using The Hobbit as a sacred text, and taking on heroic roles in World of Warcraft. Young Muslim women cosplayers are brought into conversation with Chaos magicians who use pop culture tropes and characters. A range of canonical texts, such as Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Sherlock—are examined in terms of the pleasure and enchantment of repeated viewing. Popular culture is revealed to be a fertile source of religious and spiritual creativity in the contemporary world.

About the Author(s)

Carole M. Cusack is a professor of religious studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.
John W. Morehead is an independent scholar who specializes in new religious movements, the intersection of religion and popular culture, and interreligious conflict. He lives in Syracuse, Utah.
Venetia Laura Delano Robertson is a teaching fellow at Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand. She has written about religion and fandom for the International Journal of Cultural Studies and Journal for the Academic Study of Religion.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Carole M. Cusack, John W. Morehead and Venetia Laura Delano Robertson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 209
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7083-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3640-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Study of Fandom and Religion (Carole M. Cusack and Venetia Laura Delano Robertson) 1
Part 1. Sacred Reading: Analyzing the Text
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text: Fiction, Reading
and ­Meaning-Making (Carole M. Cusack )15
Doctrine and Fanon: George Lindbeck, Han’s Gun
and Sherlock’s Gay Wedding (Rhiannon Grant) 33
Supernatural’s Winchester Gospel: A Fantastic Midrash (Linda Howell) 49
“Seizing the Means of Perception”: The Use of Fiction in Chaos Magic and Occultural Fandom (Greg Conley) 66
Part 2. Sacred Viewing: Watching the Text
Cinephany, the Affective Experience of the Fan: A Typology (Marc ­Joly-Corcoran) 86
Experiencing the Sacred: The Hobbit as a Holy Text (Jyrki Korpua, Maria Ruotsalainen, Minna Siikilä-Laitila, Tanja Välisalo
and Irma Hirsjärvi) 102
Transformative Souls and Transformed Selves: Buffy, Angel
and the Daimonic Tale (James Reynolds) 119
Part 3. Sacred Play: Performing the Text
Until the End of the World: Fans as Messianic Heroes
in World of Warcraft (Jovi L. Geraci) 138
Muslim Women Cosplayers: Intersecting Religious, Cultural
and Fan Identities (Juli L. Gittinger) 154
Magical Matrimony: Romance and Enchantment in Harry Potter–Themed Weddings (Venetia Laura Delano Robertson) 169
Afterword: Fantastic Fan Conventions and Transformational
Festivals (John W. Morehead) 187
About the Contributors 199
Index 201

Book Reviews & Awards

“The sheer variety of articles in the book, not only in terms of the pop culture covered, but also, more importantly, in terms of the different explorations of approaches to the possible intersections between religion and pop culture, makes this a fine addition to the study of pop culture, religion, and new religious movements, and also a readable volume for a more general public of fans who might want to delve more deeply into their own fandoms.”—Numen